We stay up late to answer emails, wash the dishes, and get another load of laundry in. We get up early to grab the only half hour of peace we might find in our day and make breakfast before the kids wake up. We make sure dinner is on the table as close to ‘on time’ as it gets and we always make the kids eat at the dinner table. We tell them not to slouch, we know their favorite foods, and we ask about their day. We make sure the toys are put away, the sharp object locked up tight, the windows closed, and the doors locked before we dare go to bed.
We work two jobs. Or we start small business ventures of our own when we get sick of the interview questions only women with any professional ambition are faced with. We use the excuse that it will allow us to spend more time with our children, then we work 14-hour days to keep our businesses afloat. We exercise daily, not for fear that we’ll grow old, but for knowing that we have young humans to see through at least another 15 years and, more often than not, we’re all they’ve got. We starch and iron our shirts for that big meeting tomorrow, the old-school way, so that we can save a few bucks on the dry cleaning. We pack lunches for the kids, making sure their favorite snacks are tucked inside, and we make it to the parent-teacher conferences, where we feel out of place as we run through tomorrow’s endless to-do list in our heads.
We do whatever it takes and we never give it a second thought. We hear the friends and strangers who tell us how “amazing”, “efficient”, and admirably “super-human” we are and, instead of telling them that we have no idea what we’re doing half the time, that we’re not brave but have grown accustomed to the constant fear of what happens next lingering in our bellies, that we desperately need a break but aren’t allowed to even think about it… instead, we smile and we nod and we tell them it’s not a big deal. Because admitting that it is would ruin the carefully constructed, paper-thin, sensitive routine that allows us to survive. We are the Stepford single mom.
Understanding the Stepford Single Mom
The 21st century, at least in developed countries, has brought us more opportunities and more allowances. All of us, not just women. It has also, somehow, created more space for the “successful” single mom. We’re a growing bunch. A strong bunch. A fierce force truly to be reckoned with on occasion. But we are not the Amazons you see us as. We are not Super-Moms. Lord, I hate that term. My gut wrenches every time it’s thrown in my direction. If only you knew the tremendous mistakes I have made. If only you knew the mess that I am.
And it isn’t that we’re too proud to talk about it. It isn’t that we’re ashamed to discuss our daily screw-ups and concerns. We just don’t have the time or the space for it. Shit needs to get done and there’s no one else to get it done. This is why we become easily frustrated when someone tries to step in and “help”. You’re darlings for wanting to help, really you are. But please stop. You’re cramping our style. There is method to our madness and only we will ever understand it.
We don’t need saving, but we do need understanding. Understand that this is what we are. This is our life. We don’t need ‘assistance’ in societal or legal terms. We do need laws and regulations that understand that we are often doing the job of two parents – the bread-winner and the care-taker. We should be treated as such.
In this century, we spare no expense to talk of women’s rights and the choices young girls (should) have today. Education, equal pay, natural appearance… but what of the young women who choose to be single working mothers? Why do we assume that this is something that just ‘happens’ to women through some unfortunate set of circumstances, throughout which she was entirely defenseless? It’s time we touched on that subject a bit.
Many of us had a choice in this and many of us chose to be single working mothers, in one way or another. In my personal case, which might differ vastly from others, I wanted children and I wanted freedom. I was told these two items will never co-exist in one lifetime. They were wrong. I was right. But it comes at a hefty price and I continue to pay for it daily. I do so of my own free will and choice. That, precisely that, is the freedom I am paying for every day. I have earned it and you must let me have it.
The Stepford single mom seems to be a woman ahead of her time. Until the world catches up, we’ll just continue to go to bed far too late, wake up too early, play our 2, sometimes 3 daily roles in life, and give you a smile and a nod when you tell us how amazing we are. Because amazing is mundane to us. We see amazing every time we look at one of our kids or the businesses we’ve built. We’re looking for more than amazing. We’re still waiting to be impressed.